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Home arrow History arrow A Global History of Child Death: Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes

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Women's Writings

Because most texts on grief in early Colonial America were written by men, Dye and Smith have postulated whether the lack of women’s writings can be interpreted as an acknowledgement that until an infant grew into a healthy child they were not yet considered a full person, and thus his or her well-being was not in control of the mother. As more children began to survive their infancy, writings by mothers more fully described the lives of their children. These works indicated, perhaps, the willingness of mothers to spare more emotion for children that were more likely to stay.13 Accordingly, once mortality rates dropped, sentimentality began to return to the parent-child literature of the time. At this time fiction and poetry in popular periodicals exhorted the idea that the death of a child was part of God’s plan to enable the family to reunite in heaven.14

Grieving Victorian Mothers

Women in the Victorian Era were often perceived as weak and perhaps well-suited for expressing grief. The consolation literature of this time included prayers, poetry, songs and stories written to comfort grieving families. Thus, it became acceptable for women to grieve openly. Another means of mourning was in the creation of mourning quilts. Making the quilt allowed women to grieve and also leave a memorial. The practice was particularly salient among those who were not literate enough to enjoy the benefit of the consolation literature that was so popular at the time.15 Other expressions of grief included photographs, and artwork (discussed further in Chapter 10), as well as fashioning hair jewelry (from the hair of the deceased).

 
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